By: Zaheer Abbas
Gender has been regarded as a socially constructed phenomenon. As it is socially constructed, therefore, it is embedded in every aspect of life and this embedment is so strong that gender seems to be a naturally woven concept. With the advancement in human understanding of what gender actually is, the gender stereotyping is said to be reduced but in a few aspects of life. The differences still exist in different fields of life. This paper mainly discusses a few of major gender differences in education which exist in 21st century in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan.
When the systems of education across almost all the districts of Gilgit-Baltistan are overviewed, it is found that gender is up-played in almost public and private educational institutions. People, related to education, at policy levels and also at grass-root levels, that is, within classrooms, have gendered beliefs and practices. For instances, a stereotypical belief and practice in our schools is that men are the norm of science, therefore, they teach science and mathematics in a better way while women are good at teaching humanities. In many areas where women have entered into science, even then they are more likely to be biologists rather physicists. These traditional concepts of gender are deeply embedded in our educational institutions of knowledge and therefore, the gender differences are quite visible in these institutions in the form of, for instance, less number of women in the field of science and technology.
Moreover, a common stereotypical belief which runs across the context is that females (teachers) are best suited for elementary schools because of their caring nature and natural expertise in nurturing. This traditional concept has many negative consequences. For instance, it is a common observation that majority of our lady teachers go for jobs in such elementary schools which locate closer to their homes. These lady teachers have to come back to their homes as soon as possible because they have to take care of their children and other members of their families. They, mostly, have no other option, except to go to these schools. Hence they are paid lesser as compared to male teachers who teach to secondary and higher secondary levels. It is, in my opinion, a kind of economical degradation of women. In addition, as most of females go for jobs in elementary schools, therefore, they seldom continue their education to higher levels. This situation limits the number of female role models who have gone through advance levels of education. Young girls, who want to study up to higher and advance levels, catch lesser sources of inspirations, and so limit themselves to intermediate and (hardly) graduation levels of education.
Moving ahead, when students including both boys and girls were asked about their study time at home, it was found that girls get lesser time at home for their studies. When girls were further asked about the reasons why they do not get study time, they shared that they have to help their mothers/sisters in kitchens cooking food and outside kitchens in other home tasks like washing clothes, overall cleanliness of their houses and working in fields for forming. Likewise, educational institutions are also imbalanced with respect to enrolments. According to Annual Status of Education Report (2013), girls’ enrolment in both public and private schools is lesser as compared to boys’ enrolment. Similarly, 15.7% of students are out of schools and out of which 9.8% are girls.
This gender segregation of education has different negative effects on society and its economy. To balance the society on gender premises and improve its economy, gender equity and equality are quite necessary. The approach of equity and equality will bring equal access to and control of men and women over resources and facilities and will also balance the educational systems on gender grounds. With such initiatives, we can hope for a gender balanced and prosperous Gilgit-Baltistan.
The contributor is a graduate of AKU-IED. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Linguists from the Karakuram International University, Gilgit.